Monday, 16 January 2017

Tomic quick out of the blocks

Bernard Tomic carries much of the hopes of Australian singles success at this year's Aus Open, but expectations are significantly less than they have been than coming into previous campaigns.
Early 2016 had Tomic publicly announcing his goal of a top ten appearance by year's end, but his latter section of the year was dogged by erratic performance on and off the court, and nothing he has done in 2017 has led me to believe that his ranking of 27 will markedly improve in the short term.

He plays Brazilian Thomaz Bellucci in the second match on Margaret Court Arena, and he should by rights win, playing in front of a parochial crowd, and knowing that he has performed well here previously, most recently last year, losing to Murray in the round of sixteen.

Against that is the past match on a hard court against Bellucci in China in September 2016 where he was stitched up nicely, beginning the descent in form and ranking.
Bellucci is ranked 62 but has experience on his side and could worry Tomic, but I believe the Australian has enough talent to win through.  His serve is important, and if consistent can be the major factor.

Tomic was asked by Bellucci to serve first, and  he did the job competently to the left hander, holding with ease.  Tomic broke the Brazilian serve with a combination of excellent returning and swift movement across the court exemplified best by reaching two drop shots and converting one into a winner, the other forcing an errant reply.
The consolidating service game was equally impressive and start could not have been scripted any better for the Aussie.

Bellucci took an age to complete the job but an ace clinched his first game of the 2017 Aus Open, after Tomic took him to deuce a few unwelcome times.  Much quicker for the 27th seed who led 4-1 after another highly efficient use of racquet and balls.
5-2 following easy holds by both.

An unforced error plus a double fault by Bellucci were compounded by a backhand into the net and Tomic had three set points.  One was saved with a reflex volley, the next with a shot over the baseline from Tomic.
A brilliant forehand could not be dealt with by the Aussie and it was brought back to deuce, for once a place where Thomaz was happy to be.

A couple of game points came and went, and another set point presented itself.  No problem this time for Bernard as the netted shot from Bellucci saw 6-2 reflected on the scoreboard - at least for five seconds until it flicked around all the other courts' progress.

In the third game of set two, Bellucci tested Tomic on serve more than he had for the entire match.  At 30-30, the Australian survived two long rallies, the second of which he won with a sizzling winner. 2-1 he led.
The standard of tennis dipped appreciably in the next two games, firstly with Bellucci spraying shots long wide and into the net to drop his serve, and then the previously impregnable Tomic serve was under immense pressure, heavily reliant on the second delivery, and he too failing to deliver with his groundstrokes.
Ultimately, the determination of Tomic proved enough and he extended his lead to 4-1.

This became 5-1 as Bellucci fell apart, The shot making of Tomic back to its earlier level.
Leading 6-2 6-1 an Australian presence in the second round appeared close.

Despite some wonderful Tomic backhands and break chances in both of the Bellucci opening services of set three, the Brazilian managed to cling on, and lead 2-1.
Bernard had no such difficulty, and a love game levelled proceedings at 2-2, the serve finding its range once more.

In a flash 4-4 flashed up on the scoreboard, both players winning lots of free points with their serves and follow up ground strokes.  However Tomic was only two games away from victory and could afford to throw everything at the next Bellucci service game.

Which indeed he did, and the break came, a beautiful passing shot and an effective lob causing error, contributing factors.
Never any doubt about serving out the match, a most convincing start to this year's event for Bernard Tomic 6-2 6-1 6-4.

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